The FDA expanded the reach of COVID-19 booster shots Wednesday, authorizing tens of millions of additional Americans to roll up their sleeves for booster shots, and allowing patients and doctors to mix and match shots from different drug providers.
Regulators approved a third Moderna shot for seniors and other people at high risk from the virus who received their second dose more than six months ago. The booster shot would be the equivalent of half of one of the initial doses, which is enough to rev up immunity, Moderna and health officials said.
All Americans who received a Johnson & Johnson single dose shot could get a second one at least two months later, the FDA said. The restriction-free ruling was partially informed by the J&J vaccine’s rate of lower effectiveness.
Pfizer’s booster shot was approved last month for vulnerable populations.
It was also now acceptable for patients to get a booster shot from Moderna, Pfizer of J&J, regardless of which shot or shots they initially received, officials said.
Interchanging drug brands was expected to accelerate the booster campaign, especially among vulnerable people who are institutionalized, according to the FDA.
Preliminary government findings showed that any extra dose increases virus-fighting antibodies. J&J single-dose recipients also showed an improved response from a full-strength Moderna booster or a Pfizer booster, the study found.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are set to consult an expert panel Thursday before finalizing official recommendations.
Some 65 million Americans remain unvaccinated, and officials said that while inoculating them remains the priority, shoring up protections among the fully vaccinated is also key to fighting COVID-19.
“The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated,” FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said. “The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.”
The guidance comes as some experts warn the government has not clearly articulated the effectiveness or necessity of widespread booster shots.
Eleven million people in the US have already been jabbed with an additional shot, according to the CDC.
With Post wires